Food & Wine Editor
Jewish Flavor Enters The Whiskey Market
A new members-only whiskey community, Single Cask Nation, is trending with the Jewish community.
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In 2010 Joshua Hatton attended New York’s Whiskyfest and noticed that in a crowd of about 3,500 people, over a third of them were Jewish. In that moment, he came up with the idea of catering to Jewish whiskey enthusiasts.

“There’s more kippot than there are kilts at these events,” Hatton said. “It seemed like the smart thing to do.”

The result of that brainstorm: the Jewish Whisky Company, an independent bottling company that adheres to the laws of kashrut, and Single Cask Nation, its members-only club. The company is just about to deliver its second release of high-quality single cask whiskies to its members.

Now in its fifteenth month of business, Single Cask Nation has about 200 members, 40 percent of whom are Jewish.

“There’s a watermark of the star of David on the front [of our bottles]. We really try to press the Jewish pride aspect,” Hatton said. “We also have 60 percent of our membership who are not Jewish. We don’t want to exclude them by being overly Jewish. We’re about whisky first and foremost, and we want to make sure kosher issues are met.”

All whisky is made using kosher ingredients, but a kashrut issue can arise when whisky is matured in a cask that once contained alcohol made from grapes.

In the Talmud, the rabbis debated if a beverage containing non-kosher components such as residual grape juice could be kosher, but no consensus was reached. The Scottish Rabbinical Board deems all whiskeys kosher by nature, so though the Jewish Whisky Company’s bottles aren’t labeled with a heksher, or kosher certification, they comply with the laws of kashrut by most Jews’ standards.

Additionally, since the barley-based beverage is considered chametz, or unkosher for Passover, during the holiday the Jewish Whisky Company sells their bottles as chametz to a non-Jewish party, and repossesses them after Passover to ensure the bottles do not become traif, or non-kosher.

The company also carries out Jewish values through charity and tikun olam, the imperative to repair the world, said Jason Johnstone-Yellin, the co-founder and vice president of Single Cask Nation and the Jewish Whisky Company.

In October, Single Cask Nation will host its second annual Whisky Jewbilee, where a portion of the ticket proceeds will be donated to Support Connection, a non-profit organization that provides support to people affected by breast and ovarian cancer.

Since eating is essential when tasting several whiskeys so as not to become intoxicated, the Jewbilee is the only whiskey festival to provide an entirely kosher buffet, Johnstone-Yellin said.

“We didn’t want to be another stuffy whisky company that takes itself incredibly seriously, we wanted it to be modern and interesting,” he said.

emma.jewishweek@gmail.com  @JewishWeekFW

Last Update:

06/19/2013 - 17:46


Surprisingly, I am not surprised :) I have a feeling whiskey lovers and the whiskey market will witness some changes in the next couple of years, including an increased interest from the Jewish community. If this is not example enough, then let me tell you I have Jewish friend who is so into whiskey, that he bought a whiskey still to produce and consume his own whiskey at home.

scottish whisky distillers sometimes add caramel food coloring to the whisky.
who checks that this ingredient is kosher?

They don't say KOSHER...they say JEWISH. Not all whiskies are or can be kosher, for the caramel color reason, aging in sherry casks, etc. There are a few whiskies on the market that are actually certified kosher...Catoctin Creek's Roundstone Rye whisky from Virginia is Star-K, for example. They were at the Jewbilee, too.

that's all they have in common
a love for liquor?

Say, rather, that liquor, taken in moderation and in the right spirit (no pun intended), often helps people discover other things that they have in common. If the only common motivation were a love of liquor itself, everyone would just have it delivered and drink it alone. Mind you, discovering things one has in common with others carries its own risks....

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